Dual driver earphones are usually quite expensive so the Rock Jaw i3D earbuds for a hair under £50 caught our interest.
Rock Jaw says its philosophy is to bring high-end sound quality down into the realms of affordability which is marketing spiel we've heard many times before with varying degrees of credibility - but we like the idea in principle.
"There is the old saying 'that you get what you pay for', but is this strictly true? We don't think so," says the Rock Jaw website alarmingly.
We're big believers in the 'you get what you pay for' adage because generally it's true with gear like this – if you want top-quality sound you have to pay for it. It's about expertise, materials, machining, construction, calibration... those things don't come free of charge, it's just a fact.
And so it's with a degree of predictability that the Rock Jaw i3D earphones disappoint about as ruinously as any sound gear we've used in a long time.
Why so bad?
We tested with a variety of music types and on a number of different output devices but the Rock Jaw i3D's sound universally awful across the board.
We couldn't find a single track that these things don't mangle to the point of sonic catastrophe. Despite each bud containing 6mm and 11mm drivers in an attempt to deliver clarity across the soundscape, the resulting output is murky and unrefined.
We don't expect the world for less than £50, but we absolutely do demand some kind of balance and these things are so unbalanced as to make listening to them very uncomfortable.
There's no definition at the high end at all, with everything squished aggressively and mercilessly into a muddy mess in the lower midrange. Bass bulges and splutters out of control underneath in a way that scratches and rubs instead of soothes and strokes. There is no finesse to the sound, no definition or clarity.
To make things worse, the £50 price point has always been a bit of a sweetspot for earphones - for that you've always been able to pick up a pair of single-driver Shure's or Sennheisers that sound worlds better than this.
But even if you ignore those excellent options, we've used £10 earphones that sound comfortable, balanced and far more preferable in comparison to these from Rock Jaw.
The product looks great, they're comfortable to wear and they don't look cheap. The problem is that they sound worse than bad and it's for this reason we simply wouldn't dream of recommending them to anyone.
We tested three samples of the Rock Jaw i3D. The first one was broken and the second two were equally poor in performance